The R.O.B. universe (ロボット, Robot) refers to the usage of the historically significant Robotic Operating Buddy peripheral for the NES as a playable character in the Super Smash Bros. series.
It was first represented in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, with the peripheral appearing as both a playable character and as a set of enemies in The Subspace Emissary story mode as the R.O.B. Squad. R.O.B. returns as an unlockable character in Super Smash Bros. 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Roughly around the same time as Nintendo's domestic launch of its new video game console, the Famicom, in July 1983, one of the most infamous and historically significant time periods in the video game industry's early timeline was at its height: the two year-long North American video game recession that began in 1983 and heralded the catastrophic end of the second generation of video gaming. Several causes for the phenomenon are routinely identified by historical retrospectives: roughly a dozen separate consoles were available for retail by 1982, each with its own library of games and its own funding by almost as many different companies, and several of these companies were hastily started and financed in order to join what seemed to be a booming North American video game market - but were not always in possession of their own necessarily accomplished video game programmers.
Furthermore, the hardware manufacturers of this era - in stark contrast to Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft in later decades - did not have exclusive control of their platforms' supply of games, effectively meaning that any group could make a game and sell it, and there was nothing to prevent limited shelf space in stores from being overloaded by third-party publishers' material. This effectively resulted in the industry becoming flooded with games of notably low quality that were nonetheless marketed heavily and produced in high numbers.
1982 would see the release of Atari games which would later earn the dubious title of "the games that killed gaming". Pac-Man was an Atari 2600 port of the landmark and popular arcade game of the same name, while E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a video-game adaptation of the movie E.T. Both games were high-profile titles that were adaptations of properties that were themselves extremely high-profile. In both cases, Atari rushed their programming and development processes to make early releases, and manufactured colossal amounts of units in anticipation of huge hits. Both games were universally panned by critics and consumers alike, and while they sold relatively well, Atari grossly overestimated the number of sales they would generate, resulting in many unsold units.
This began a brutal chain reaction across the entire North American market, which was not at all helped by a newly soured consumer outlook on the video game concept. Most stores, lacking space to carry new games and consoles, had no choice but to attempt to return surplus games to recent publishers, but since publishers had neither new products to supply nor cash to issue refunds to the retailers, many companies folded, and of those that did not, several abandoned the video game business entirely. Stores left with units that could no longer be returned to defunct publishers could only resort to offering the titles for spectacularly low bargain-bin prices. Toy retailers that controlled consumer access to games had concluded that video games were a fad that had in fact ended, and therefore became opposed to devoting shelf space to video games and consoles in favor of other types of entertainment products.
The massive recession of North America's video game market into near-complete irrelevance had, of course, by definition handed dominance in the home console market to Japan, and Nintendo's Famicom console was free to build up influence in the country and become the dominant console. During development of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo sought an eventual late 1985 Western release for the Famicom and its building library as the "NES", but Western retailers' long-established bias against video games and consoles was a formidable barrier to these plans. Nintendo's Research and Development Team therefore hoped to construct hardware compatible with the console that could help present the NES console to these retailers as a "toy" and "entertainment system" with compatible "Game Paks" and different toy-like peripherals, instead of being presented as merely the latest console-with-cartridges product. The NES Zapper light gun and several games associated with it were already on hand to help provide this image, but Nintendo proceeded to develop a mechanically complex, battery-powered peripheral resembling a nearly foot-tall robot that was literally named "Robot". They developed two NES cartridges compatible with the device: Robot Block, released in Japan along with the Robot unit itself near the end of July 1985, and Robot Gyro, released mid-August. Robot was renamed "R.O.B." for its Western release, and its associated games Stack-Up and Gyromite, respectively.
The Western launch date of the NES, October 18th, 1985, was a month after Super Mario Bros. revolutionized the video game market in Japan. Nintendo's ploy to use R.O.B. to convince American toy retailers to allow the NES video game console in their stores was evidently successful, for Super Mario Bros., the NES, and the rest of its extensive launch library were uninhibited in their distribution and sales in the West. The irony is that, in any other circumstance, R.O.B. and its two games would likely have been remembered as a dismal failure in Nintendo's timeline of experimental peripherals for its game consoles; not only were Gyromite and Stack-up the only two packages ever released for the unit, but videos showing the unit in action demonstrate that R.O.B.'s operative efficiency and practicality with even these two games were questionable at best.
Gyromite was effectively a side-scrolling game where the controls were split between player-character movement on player 1's Control Pad and environmental effects on player 2's A and B buttons, making it a cooperative game, and R.O.B.'s contribution to Gyromite was effectively as an optional substitute for a second player, where pressing Start on player 1's controller would compel R.O.B. to press an appropriate button on the player 2 controller after going through roughly half a minute's worth of pre-programmed motions. Stack-Up, on the other hand, fared better as software that used the R.O.B. unit itself as a physical game device, where electronically inputting commands with the NES controller would compel R.O.B. to move and drop colored blocks onto stands surrounding its base, though the pre-programmed motions of the R.O.B. unit often knocked blocks off their stands unintentionally.
Nonetheless, analysts argue that the R.O.B. unit had a uniquely profound and important effect in the history of video games as a market, even if it was entirely due to its "Trojan horse" concept rather than its actual performance as a product. To what degree R.O.B. truly allowed the newly Nintendo-dominated video game business to proliferate in the West is a point of debate. Nevertheless, Nintendo has shown itself to hold the R.O.B. unit in high regard, as evident by having it make a number of cameos and even a few playable appearances in a rather large number of its modern-day franchises. Its cameos consist of Kirby being able to collect its parts and reassemble them in a puzzle in Kirby's Dream Land 3, several R.O.B.-centered microgames appearing throughout the WarioWare series, a model of R.O.B. decorating a portion of Port Town Aero Dive in F-Zero GX (which also occurs in the stage of the same name in Super Smash Bros. Brawl), R.O.B. appearing in the Curiosity Shop in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D, R.O.B.'s head being a collectable treasure in Pikmin 2, and R.O.B. appearing as on the back portion of the box art of Capcom's Viewtiful Joe. Its playable appearances consist of Mario Kart DS, which marked its debut as a full-fledged video game character and even features a kart that resembles its Stack-Up accessories, and lastly and most notably, the Super Smash Bros. series as of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
In addition to cameos and playable appearances, R.O.B. has been referenced in some instances, with the most notable of these occurring within the Star Fox series. ROB 64 references R.O.B. both in name and in function as a robotic assistant, due to his status as the pilot of the Great Fox. However, Star Fox Zero and Star Fox Guard both feature robots that are almost identical to R.O.B. Zero features Direct-i, who is tethered to the Gyrowing and functions similarly to ROB 64 and R.O.B. by being an assistant to the player. Guard features the A.T.K. Unit, which is one of the "combat class" robots in the game that threaten the player's mining facilities. Outside of these instances, StarTropics features a robot resembling R.O.B. named "NAV-COM", who is an important side character.
Both Robot Series games featured an on-screen playable character named Professor Hector. In Stack-Up, Hector simply existed to be controlled by the player, hopping across a keyboard-like graphic onscreen in order to dictate the physical R.O.B. unit's carry-and-drop movements of the colored blocks around it. Sometimes, enemies known as "glitches" named Spike and Flipper got in his way.
In Gyromite, Professor Hector has been trapped in rooms filled with dynamite and hostile enemies named Smicks, and he is otherwise defenseless in his quest to grab all the dynamite in each stage, except for the presence of colored pedestals scattered throughout each stage that may be raised or lowered by the button presses of the second player's controller. These pedestals may trap Smicks to get them out of the professor's way, possibly even squishing them—or Hector himself if he is not careful. The R.O.B. unit can be used as the second player; when doing so, it drops spinning tops called "gyros" onto the second NES controller's red buttons to keep the gates held down for the player operating the first NES controller, representing Hector's creation helping him out of his predicament.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Since the R.O.B. universe only has two games to draw material from, it has minimal representation: it features one character, one item (produced by R.O.B's down special move, Gyro), one music track, and no stages. However, R.O.B. plays an integral role in Adventure Mode, with several different enemies based on R.O.B. appearing.
Trophies which feature R.O.B.s are:
R.O.B. (Series: "Others". Unlock: Clear Classic Mode as R.O.B.)
Diffusion Beam (Series: "Others". Unlock: Clear All-Star Mode as R.O.B.)
R.O.B. Sentry (Use Trophy Stand)
R.O.B. Launcher (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Use Trophy Stand)
R.O.B. Blaster (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock:Use Trophy Stand)
Ancient Minister (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Adventure Mode: The Subspace Emissary)
Subspace Bomb (Series: The Subspace Emissary. Unlock: Clear Boss Battles on Easy difficulty)
In Super Smash Bros. 4
The R.O.B. universe returns in Super Smash Bros. 4, though unlike in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, its representation is very minimal: while R.O.B. retains his status as the universe's sole representative, only one song returns from Brawl and is exclusive to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. As a result, the R.O.B. universe is effectively akin to a "bonus" universe in SSB4, much like how the EarthBound and F-Zero universes were in Super Smash Bros., and how the Fire Emblem universe was in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Main article: List of spirits (R.O.B. series)
Games with influences
This game was the first one to make use of the Famicom Robot/Robotic Operating Buddy. Gyro was based on a top-like accessory used for the game. Also, a medley containing some music from this game is used in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and subsequent Smash games.
Music from this game is remixed in the Stack-Up/Gyromite Medley, which debuted in Brawl.